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The day had been long and without human connection my body sore and stiff as I start the car for home. Driving along my thoughts drift and I begin to think how life can be vague and automated stirring only for movement. Just like driving home on auto pilot and realising you weren’t conscious of how you got there. Turning the corner I see the house there at the top of the hill and notice Inga’s car isn’t in the driveway she must have gotten held up on campus again. Walking into the kitchen I kick off my shoes and socks welcoming the smooth wooden floor beneath my feet like an old friend who wraps their arms around you after a long absence, it just feels so good. Dropping my duffle bag on top of the laminated kitchen table I turn and pull a bottle of bourbon out of the cupboard not waiting to sit down I pour a drink and close my eyes to feel the warmth sliding down my throat. I’ve always sworn I can taste citrus in this delicious dark brown liquid and I savor the moment.
I’m startled into action by the front door being opened and I make a move to greet my Swedish goddess Inga even after a day of my hands being deep in the motor of an old Chevy engine. All my body wants to do is lay in a hot bath and I still spring to my feet for her standing in the open door way in all her glory never the helpless maiden. Right now she is laden with shopping bags, her fine body valiantly resisting the heavy weight on the end of her arms. She was far stronger than she looked but I extend my dirty hands in an attempt to relieve her struggle but she ignores my offer and pushes past me and heads straight for the kitchen. Her pride makes me smile and I conclude I mustn’t have been the only one who has had a bad day. Dutifully following I catch her scent and I take in the light floral tones and my mind fills with memories of laughter of love and love making over the last five glorious years. It’s amazing how something like someone’s scent can do that and make you feel so secure in yourself and your relationship.
Without hesitation Inga began to unpack the groceries now strewn over the kitchen table and on top of my duffle bag. Looking at the chaos I’m sure the womyn has bought half the store we couldn’t possibly eat all this in a week, I pick up a pumpkin in my arm and open the refrigerator door when Inga protests “no not in there Sam I’ll be cooking that” I looked at her in surprise “what the whole thing?” “yes, I’ve invited the gang around for dinner” “oh babe not tonight, I’m truly beat” “well I can’t help that, besides it’s too late now everyone has accepted and they’ll be here in just over an hour”. Annoyed I grumble “why didn’t you check with me first?” “Why should I you’re not my keeper and I don’t need your permission to have my friends around if you’re too tired, fine then go to bed and leave us alone”. I stood in front of her completely gob-smacked by her off-handed and almost callous response I couldn’t believe she could be so inconsiderate, so I try again “babe I’ve had a really hard day and I don’t have the energy to play host to a rowdy bunch of lezo’s”. Inga stopped unpacking to turn on the heel of her boots and face me square on and the look on her face with her jaw clenching said it all and then I copped it “what do you mean rowdy! Where do you get off putting my friends down like that?” “Whoa there, hang on a minute” raising my hands palms exposed as a signal of truce “Inga I let you know I’m tired and I feel a little taken for granted you didn’t include me in the decision about having your friends over on a work night.” Inga’s body relaxed I knew she was hearing me as she went back to unpacking the last bag on the table saying she wasn’t going to be made to feel guilty about me being tired “look Sam I’m young, well younger, and I still like being impulsive and spontaneous about socializing with friends. Week night or weekend doesn’t mean a thing to me I’m sorry your body isn’t up for the fun but I’ve got to get this dinner on now or we won’t be eating until well after eight.” For the second time in as many minutes her words lashed me leaving me wounded I felt very small almost miniscule against this barrage of verbal poison. I mumbled I would leave her to the cooking – the kitchen has always been her domain – I would have a shower to clean up before everyone arrived then come down and set the table. Inga now standing with her back to me at the sink was focused on cutting the pumpkin her toned muscles flexing with each downward thrust of the knife. The intensity in what she was doing assured me she had finished talking.
Walking down the hall the darkness of the wood paneling and lack of light mirrored my mood. As I clutch the rail to begin my decent to the second floor I look down at my hand and see signs of aging the dryness and feint sun spots had begun to appear on my skin and I wondered why did she bring our age difference up it had never been an issue for either of us, until now. She was 30 and I was 45 when we first met nothing to it really but now 50 and 35, well, even I hear the age in that “wake up to yourself woman age has nothing to do with it she is just having a bad day and you know what that’s like”. Unbuttoning my dark blue cotton work shirt I head for the shower and already feel the insecurity lifting and a smile forming at the edge of my mouth “it’ll all be ok”.
I finish combing my wet hair and fix the collar of my polo shirt before I take a quick look in the mirror smugly thinking “yeah you scrub up alright”. Before I head down stairs I call out to lnga in the shower steam pouring over the top of the flimsy curtain “how do you want the table set babe?” no response she probably can’t hear me over the running water. Setting the old mahogany table I add an assortment of candles to sit in the middle to give an ambient warm glow when again l’m startled by movement at the front door with shuffling of feet on the stone steps, yep lnga’s friends are early, I take a deep breath and I call out to lnga up the stairs “hey babe their here” but I don’t notice there is still no response. I welcome the gang inside who are in boisterous spirits all speaking at once Janice, Ann and Charlie, Mia then Baz and lastly someone I hadn’t met before. I extended my hand and Kathy introduced herself who l’d say was mid to late 20’s dreadlocks, jeans and a khaki t-shirt sprouting the slogan Queer As Fuck! The red wine began flowing almost immediately and Janice, the loudest of the group, yelled up the stairs for lnga to come down and join them before they died of starvation. A moment later lnga descended the stairs wearing a sleeveless crumpled white linen shirt which against her olive skin, chopped short wet blonde hair and green eyes made her look like an advert for Norsca simply stunning. I found myself following her neckline down into her shirt and her soft pink lips slowly parting to reveal a smile began stirring something rather primitive within me when at that moment of drowning in desire I felt my arm being touched drawing my attention back to the room of people and Mia asking for a drink.
The table was laden with food and the conversation already animated with just as much talking being done with waving of hands as with mouths and to the un-initiated you could easily mistaken the scene for mayhem but I was totally entertained with the theatrics of it all. Inga was seated at the opposite head of the table with Kathy on her right side and Charlie her left and then Anna. Charlie and Anna were inseparable and always sat side by side only a brave and foolish womyn would attempt to pry these two ol’ married couple apart. Next to Kathy was Janice then Mia and across from her and on my right was Baz a baby dyke in the making. They were all connected from college either still studying or doing research Baz was the youngest and geez didn’t she love the attention she received from the femmes fussing over her. I leaned in to Baz to ask if her boi’ish virgin charms had worked on a woman yet and she blushed a light shade of red “aw cut it out Sam I don’t play for attention, much” we both burst out laughing. The food started being passed around and I took a big helping of Inga’s pumpkin coconut curry it smelled divine and I couldn’t wait to dig in. The curry was vegan like everything else on the table Inga’s belief in animal rights was a not negotiable issue in our relationship and I learned to open my mind to a more ethical way of living and lesson my carbon footprint on the planet. My goddess was a beautiful intelligent fabulous cook and lover and she was all mine.
As the cacophony of voices flowed around the table my attention was drawn to the other end to what looked like an intimate conversation between Inga and Kathy. I noticed Inga’s eyes were soft and loving yet I felt something wasn’t quite right then it hits me, Inga wasn’t looking at me she was looking at Kathy who couldn’t stop smiling demurely tilting her head when responding to Inga. I vaguely hear Mia speaking and I feel her hand touching my arm as before but I was focused on Inga and what was happening when Kathy moved her hand closer to Inga’s stroking her fingers one at a time. My eyes widened and I sat frozen what the hell! What is she doing? Anxiety screamed and my heart began pounding so hard I think it will break through my chest my mind reeling with confusion maybe I’m reading this all wrong maybe it’s just playful friendship. My heart continues to relentlessly pound drowning out all the other voices and I can only hear the thud thud thud of my pulse in my ears. Inga must have felt my piercing stare as she quickly looks up to see me watching and moves her hand away from Kathy’s bowing her head in what can only be embarrassment and shame while awkwardly shuffling cutlery around in a pathetic attempt to cover up what just happened. Kathy aware of her transgression being caught turns her head away from the table so I can only see the back of her dreads taking her arms completely off the table. Jesus Christ! What’s going on?
The house was quiet everyone had gone and Inga was in bed leaving me to clean up the dishes.Standing at the kitchen sink I look into the soapy suds and laugh at the irony, I get to deal with our dirt on my own. I couldn’t erase the image of the two of them out of my head it was like my mind was on auto replay, how could she cheat right in front of me in our home for fuck sake, why? Thumping the sink with both hands tears well up and I fall to my knees sobbing. She hasn’t even come down to talk or see how I’m feeling what does this say about us, doesn’t she care, is there an ‘us’ anymore? The sobbing eases and I wipe my nose on the only thing nearby a tea towel I’m feeling completely emotionally exhausted tossing the towel aside I know I have bigger issues to tackle right now. I turn and walk out the kitchen switching the light off as I leave.
Standing in the doorway of our bedroom I feel the breeze coming from the open window and watch the curtain moving in a zen like fluid rolling motion. I drew in a deep breath and feel the crisp air reminding me not only had autumn arrived but of the emotional distance between me and Inga who lying on her side in bed clutching the sheet around her breasts. I moved quietly around the room while I took off my shirt and jeans slipping into bed and immediately feeling the warmth of her body next to me. I found comfort in her warmth and turned on my side to face her back my eyes following the ridges of her spine on her smooth flawless skin until they disappeared under the sheet. At any other time I would softly trace her spine with my finger as the beginning to foreplay but instead tonight I lay hear feeling a deep sadness a crushing ache inside my chest. I whisper “I want to make things right between us” and move my foot to find hers to connect like a lover’s kiss but she quickly moves her foot away yes she’s awake “can we talk?” The silence was deafening then after a while she moved so I could see her profile and she began to speak but then stopped to rub her forehead, she too was feeling pain in what looked like a silent battle. “We can work this out I know we can, we need to talk Inga” moving my arm to wrap around her body she pushes the sheet back and sits on the side of the bed “c’mon babe, talk to me please what was that with Kathy tonight? I have a right to know, what’s going on?” “I don’t know if talking can change anything Sam too much has happened and I never meant to hurt you believe me. I’m sleeping in the spare room tonight I can’t do this ‘us’ right now I’m sorry” picking up her pillow she walks out.